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12 Jun

How It Is

Today is June 12. The time of the long days has gently engulfed us with warm dry days, cool nights, the promise of wild  berries soon to come,mayflies hanging in the morning air, brook trout rising loudly, their delicious red flesh there for the taking. As if yesterday, we saw no ice in Keweenaw Bay. Our own lake was still icebound when we arrived on May 3, as was the big bay and now our ice is gone as it is from the big water. There were small bergs and ice sculptings floating in the bay on Saturday. They looked almost gaudy in their showoffedness in lingering so late into the next season, not their own. 

Short as our nights are now, we are too lethargic in the dark to  crawl outside to drink star-shine and confirm that our pole star Polaris continues to patrol it’s tiny tight orbit over our heads. Our planet continues to spin on its own axis and orbit the sun, which creeps further north by the day, unnoticed by all but some farmers and old fishermen and aging navigators. The migrations are done, happened in waves, led by robins, then yellow legs, greater and smaller, various waterfowl, then legions of warbles in all hues of the rainbow and orioles and Keweenaw Canaries (goldfinches). They passed through  and stopped to eat and sing and cavort en route to some secret destination, reminding me of Shakspeare’s players out in the hinterlands before they achieved royal sponsorship (which then meant less reason to take their shows on the road, except when plague visited London and the road an eminently healthier alternative.) Hummingbirds and canaries  remain, but with the lilacs in full bloom there are fewer hummers  at our feeders. Wildflowers are popping everywhere and the little buzzers have ample nectar everywhere to choose from.

Last winter was a meteorological freaky phenomenon, extremely cold, extremely snowy, and extremely long-lived. Lake Superior was damn near iced over in its entirety something that hasn’t happened in a couple of decades. The grudging withdrawal of winter has left local people a bit loopy, as if the Germans finally decamped Leningrad and Stalingrad. Folks stand grinning in the sun, drinking the rays like air-born spirits, which is a sense they are. Gaunt, stunted deer venture onto the grounds and highway verges and it is even money if they will survive a second consecutive monster winter. This rounded hill country (not that much lower than Mts. Arvon and Curwood, the state’s highest points with only 11 inches difference. We are not more than 100 feet lower in our surrounds and some eight miles uphill and inland from the bay and L’Anse (and  just a few miles up the road from Bovine). The microclime here is known for cold, including our village of Alberta, and the nearby hill hamlet of Herman. We tend, even now, to be 20 or more degrees warmer than the bay-shore. In winter it is far colder and snowier up this way, and often this area is among the very coldest in the Yoop. With this past winter’s severity we have not yet seen a fawn. These are usually dropped in late May, early June. Biologists say the average winter up here takes 100 thousand cervid lives. A severe winter claims twice that and last winter was an awful one. How bad? There was a predator study being done in Iron County (just south of us) in which 43 fawns were collared last summer, to track through the year. Not one is alive now, all of them taken either by predators or weather since their collaring. The sun, as I said, is creeping northward.

The older I get, the more I appreciate my five years as an Air Force navigator. The opportunity to find my way around the world using centuries-old techniques and barely  modern adaptions of old instruments was challenging and satisfying as we winged across oceans at 500-600 knots. My friend, former high school sports foe,  fraternity brother, and Air Force crewmate (copilot)  will arrive later this month for a brief visit. It is ironic that I lived the nomadic life growing up and he grew up rooted in St. Ignace, and now I am the rooted one and he continues his nomadic, globe-trotting ways. The two local high schools (Baraga and L’Anse) have matriculated and celebrated their senior send-offs, and just last weekend L’Anse had it’s annual lake trout festival, including the Little Miss Lake Superior beauty pageant, which as conducted outdoors   in  rainy, mid-40 degree weather as the little contestants (ages 8-12) stood shivering in sandals and frilly party dresses for parts of the competition.

This weekend is Bridgefest in Houghton as various communities throw their shindigs to attract tourist monies. Winter of course is now far more lucrative for these Yooper communities, a flipper from my days pre-snowmobiles, when summer was king above the bridge. Still is in my mind. It just doesn’t bring in as much per capita lucre. The snowmobile era took off in the mid sixties, while I was in college. Shaksper turns in every night at 2100 sharp, looking  for the coolest, darkest room to sleep. Our schedule is loose. Lonnie and the mutt make a daily perambulation of the campus perimeter checking the progress of wild berries. There was wolf scat along the way as well and Shaks showed considerable balking at some unseen scent. There are two known packs here and we are on the spot where the two territories slightly overlap. But no tracks, no sightings and no howls heard thus far. The wild strawberries as of this morning are beginning to redden, meaning ripening is but days away. These will be followed by raspberries (razzies), blueberries (bloobs), blackberries (blackies), and thimbleberries. One year in Deer Park we had scads of blueberries into October. Thimbleberries are largely an August e event. Strawberries can ripen all summer. We found no morels and as usual guidance from locals is  largely lacking. 

We were loosely introduced to an older fellow a couple of days ago and when Lonnie revealed we were here for six months, he looked at me and said, “Doing what?” I told him, “Fishing, looking around, reading, the usual stuff,” and I could tell by his eyes none of the three were “usual” by his definition. The overwhelming hospitality of Yoopers continues as fresh cookies, rhubarb desserts and coho fillets arrive at our door. Such gifts are given with no expectation of reciprocation. They are given solely because the gives’ hearts direct them to give. Quite amazing, considering we are virtual strangers, but this reflects the beauty and depth of the collective Yooper soul. Lucky us to be  among such warm and welcoming  people.

Henry Ford built this little community in 1937 as a “model town.”  Seventeen families now live here full-time. It was then said to be located in a region of  “giant trees.” The village was named for Miss Alberta Joan Johnson, daughter of Ford’s Iron Mountain superintendent. The first logging took place in the summer of 1936 ( no doubt for lumber to build the village); most logging takes place in winter. Ford built a dam and a 50-acre lake on the property (the lake having been known as Plumbago, Ford, and Alberta Lake at various times over the past 60 years). The village and surrounding forests were given to Michigan Tech University 60 years ago this summer. There will be a celebration of the event this August. The campus is part of the Forestry department. 40 students will be here August- November. It will be fun to meet them and learn what sorts of things they are up to.

Dave Stimac, the current Maintenance Guru here was in 1981  the head sawyer for the Ford plant, which closed that year. He now takes care of this place and makes bird’s eye furniture on the premises. he grew up in Trimountain, and graduated from Painesdale HS in 1971. In my high school days (10 years before Dave graduated)  we used to drive over here to play basketball against the Painesdale Jeffers High School Jets. Small world. Dave told me that in 1994 he started the plant back up for a day so that various people could film the plant operation and equipment for posterity. He said it all started easily and ran like a top.

He also related how convicts used to work at the mill and sometimes he would drive over to the minimum security prison to fetch them back to work, usually ten men at a time. But one night ten turned nine, the cops were called and a manhunt begun. It turns out that the man had hidden himself in some inner recess of the mill and after the cops came and dark set it, he went over to the office building, got into the safe, grabbed cash and beat it…. To Sidnaw where he was discovered by troopers that night drinking. Talk about a powerful drive for drink and freedom. Sidnaw (locals prounounce is Sid-na) is all of 15-16 miles from where I type this. Had there been a closer tavern he no doubt would have decamped there. And there is the story of the county’s Nature Boy, also called the Human Cormorant, who was crazed about fishing and fish and lived withi his girlfriend Peaches. But that’s for another time. The characters I hear about up here is wonderful and only adds to the fabric for stories. The photos that follow are  the first dozen from yesterday’s self-guided tour of the old Ford Sawmill.  Will post more tomorrow or the next day. Very cool. Enjoy. Over. 

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All I could think when I saw this old photo in the mill was “Indian Band.”

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Reflections of the past.

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Tools of the Trade

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The tool shed, where you drew your equipment for the day’s work.

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Visitor’s Log, Stardate….

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Saw blade is roughly four feet in diameter.

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Ice saw on the left.

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She tried to convince me we need an anvil this size for her jewelry work. I said, “Carry it out and it’s yours.” It’s still there.

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More tools and gizmos.

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This wooden frame is from gliders made down in Kingsford during World War 2.

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Admiring an old cast iron stove, enameled like a faded robin’s egg.

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The main boiler from a railroad engine, which powered a lot of the plant’s equipment.

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The old belt closet. The belt on the bottom is about 12 inches in width.

 

11 Jun

Another Crisis in Culture Reprised

We are hearing all the time about the emptiness and self-centered posture  of Milennials and how they are growing up with social networks and smart phones and electronic games, and little human social contact and how this will of course lead to the demise of mankind and country.

This came to mind as I was reading George F. Kennan’s SKETCHES FROM A LIFE. Kennan, a Wisconsin boy, served his entire life in the foreign service of the US. Expert on USSR, etc. Interesting man. June 1938 he was on leave in his home state and moving around on a bicycle and had some interesting observations and concerns, which in some ways sound very familiar with the current dirges being hummed. “The tree-lined street stretched away down the hill, under the arc-lights. The sidewalks were deserted, but a steady stream  of sleek, dark cars flowed between them, moving in and out of the town. Each car had its couple or its foursome inside, bent on pleasure — usually vicarious pleasure — in the form of a movie, or a dance, or a petting party. Woe to the young man or young woman who could not make arrangements to be included in one of these private, mathematically correct companies of nocturnal motorists. All the life of the evening flowed along the highways in this fashion, segregated into quiet groups of two and four. There was no provision for anyone else. There was no place where strangers would come together freely — as in a Bavarian beer hall  or a Russian amusement park — for the mere purpose of being together and enjoying new acquaintances. Even the saloons were nearly empty.

“It seemed for a moment as through this quiet nocturnal stream of temporary moving prisons, of closed doors and closed groups, was the reductio ad absurdum of the exaggerated American desire for privacy. What was in England an evil of the upper class seemed here to have become the vice of the entire population. It was the sad climax of individualism, the blind alley of a generation which had forgotten how to think or live collectively, of a people whose private lives wee so brittle, so insecure that they dared not subject them to the slightest social contact with the casual stranger, of people who felt neither curiosity nor responsibility for the mass of those who shared their community life and their community problems.

…”But nothing  which I was destined to see subsequently served to weaken the relief at the thought that this sad breakdown of human association in urban America was something that could not last, and that whatever else might be sacrificed in the years to come, the spirit of fellowship having reached its lowest ebb, could not fail to be the gainer.”

Soon after this, Pearl Harbor took us into a world war and social contact was forced by circumstance. I wonder how Kennan would react to what we see nowadays. He died in 2005, at the age of 101.

Over.

10 Jun

Thoughts on Important Things in Life

 

Sheila Burnford wrote The Fields of Noon, which came out in 1961. It is a lyrical memoir of growing up wild and in the wild and in it she offers advice to her daughter: Gather your own precious riches of waters while you may; squander your days among them; continue to scatter your Have Gone Fishing notes across the years. And cultivate the company  of those whose ‘hearts are fitted for contemplation, and quietness, men of mild, sweet, and peaceable spirit- as indeed most anglers are, for the time will come when there are not as many good fish in the sea as ever came out of it.” Thank you, Mrs. Burnford and good night to all. Over.

10 Jun

More Canyon Falls

Here’s the rest from the canyon. We covered A LOT of ground to show our friend around our neck of da woods. More tomorrow. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

09 Jun

Canyon on The Sturgeon

First look here, more photos tomorrow. This is moving downstream along the canyon rim of the Sturgeon River. A perfect blend of sound, color, shapes and fresh scents.  And today, June 9, we still have ice in Keweenaw Bay.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

07 Jun

June 7 and Ice still in Keweenaw Bay

Truly bizarre to see ice in the big lake so late. Today we take our friend Ruth DiSilvestro to see the Keweenaw. Hills alone astound her. She will enjoy this day for sure. Photos when we return.

05 Jun

Ford Center 60th Anniversary

Sixty years ago, The Ford Motor Company gave the Ford mill property to Michigan Technological University.  The location is part of the school’s Forestry program. Big celebrations this August 9-10. More on that later, meanwhile, more pix from recent ramblings.

Fiske bogserbåt. That's Swedish for Fish Tug. Anf in Swedling colors to boot, Larsie!

Fiske bogserbåt. That’s Swedish for Fish Tug. Anf in Swedling colors to boot, Larsie!

The old Ford watertower at eh old Pequamming mill site.

The old Ford watertower at eh old Pequamming mill site.

Fishing between the ice floes, between the trees, and so on.

Fishing between the ice floes, between the trees, and so on.

Ice wall, or mirage?

Ice wall, or mirage?

All that blue and only one little cloud int he sky.

All that blue and only one little cloud int he sky.

Approaching Pequmming from First Sand Beach area

Approaching Pequmming from First Sand Beach area

Coming down the hill towards Pequamming.

Coming down the hill towards Pequamming.

June 4 ice, Keweenaw Bay

June 4 ice, Keweenaw Bay

Kettle for cannibals needing to cook a large meal for friends.

Kettle for cannibals needing to cook a large meal for friends.

Roadside driving critics.

Roadside driving critics.

A kayaker and his iceberg.

A kayaker and his iceberg.

Sandhills near Pequamming.

Sandhills near Pequamming.

Coming storm put bird in a frenzy.

Coming storm put bird in a frenzy.

Thunderstorm sweeping in off the Baraga Plains

Thunderstorm sweeping in off the Baraga Plains

Weather about to engulf the old Ford Village School houses.

Weather about to engulf the old Ford Village School houses.

 

04 Jun

Words Without Meaning and Other Technical Thoughts

Thoughts on a sleepless night: Raw sound can evoke emotion, and planned sound can do the same. With planned sound, let’s call it music, the emotion can stimulate further creative thoughts and act as a platform. Music is organized, planned sound aimed at producing a largely uniform response in those who hear it. Music with lyrics (sundry popular music) can create similar responses and I know some folks (especially in my kids’ generation) who can recite lyrics in encyclopedic fashion. But I wonder what kind of response there is to tunes with clearly enunciated lyrics (if there is such), vs lyrics that blend like smudge into the actual instrumental part of the work. There’s some purpose to my wonderings and thinking. Poems are all lyrics, but poets often choose words for a particular sound or spoken texture as much as for meaning. Can a poet write a work of lyrics based only on the sounds and rhythms of the words?

And can they do this while totally ignoring the meanings of the words? Can a listener get past listening to the words for meaning and find a way to take on the sounds alone, divorced from the words? Can they hear it as a chant, if you will. What about vocabulary will free a word from its meaning and allow only its sound to be heard (like a musical note)? Impossible?

Consider this, when we hear a foreign language for the first time we are likely to hear only the sounds and have no clue in the words or their meanings until we can actually being to acquire vocabulary needed. So, can a poet use English words for English speakers in such a way that the music inherent in each word can be heard for its tonal qualities alone? Are listeners of poems dependent on hearing a poet’s rendering in order to hear the music the poet has written? For sure some will hear a poem and take it on differently than if it is read out loud, or even more specifically by the poem’s creator. And others, because a poem’s thoughts may seem arcane or too complex, may tune it out when hearing it, and hear then only the sounds, divorced from meaning.

All of this no doubt applies somewhat to prose work as well but for the moment my mind was stuck on poetry. What brought this on? First, I heard an interview with a NEW YORKER author who has written a new book on China and he talked about how Chinese leadership (The Party) realized the old propaganda, information control model was in jeopardy, so they set about to understand western world mass communications and public relations theory and practices And then they embarked on a western style internal PR campaign with Chinese citizens.

All well and good, but what surveys there are tend to show that citizens all interpret the mass messages differently. (The old David Berlo model from my MSU days: Meanings are in people, not in words.)

It makes me think the Chinese (management/ Party leaders) have no clue or understanding of how messages are absorbed by 1.4 billion folks. Course, we might argue the same right here in this country with our foolish political leaders. Further, I had just been reading Aristotle’s dictum viz Greek city states, and how they were ungovernable once population was such that some folks were beyond hearing a herald breinging them public square news, or instruction. Way back in college my takeaway on this had been that 50,000 people was the number beyond which cities became ungovernable, this number no doubt an extrapolation from a history author somewhere and this number was used to make the point that any city over that size would be by Aristotlian thinking, ungovernable.

To be fair,  this was when the communications was limited by one herald’s voice in the public square. But China now has mass media (modern heralds) and how far is the effective reach and reception of all that?

This got me to thinking about information and how people receive it and naturally I turned to the nonsensical ramblings of Don Rummy Rumsfeld, our former Secretary of Defense and his mantra on known-knowns, known-unknowns, and unknown-unknowns, which most people let wash off them as gibbershite. But how about this along the same lines, this from the late British historian R.G.Collingwood, who was mildly reproached in the editor’s preface to his work, THE IDEA OF HISTORY. Wrote the editor, “Collingwood was not writing to shock readers out of complacency; he meant what he said and he did give us his reasons; but he might have produced more conviction if he had been able to express himself less passionately. I immediately though of President Obama’ largely unemotional style and how lack of emotion can impede as much as too much.

Here’s some of what Collingwood wrote . It is somewhat redolent of Rummy. “Hence, thought is not without prescription because experience is no longer conceived as immediate, but as containing mediation or thought within itself, the real no longer divided into that which ‘knows’ but cannot be known (‘I know because a knowledge where the knower can never say ‘I know’ is not knowledge at all) and that which is ‘known’ but cannot know.” Wow, what overwhelming passion. Too emotional? Gimme a break! More to the point, most folks reading such dry stuff are likely to shut-off reception at some point.

But I wonder as that brain continues to read does the mind convert the by then meaningless sound into “music?” And is so, how profoundly different is understanding between the classic all-and-only word reader and the latter example. What I was asking myself is can I write a poem I which the words will not be seen for their meaning but only heard for their sounds, which will require those who hear to consciously cut off the meaning channel? The poet would have to do the same thing.

And I suspect, such a poem could work only orally as it would be too difficult to see past word meanings when reading quietly to oneself. This is the sort of thing writers find themselves wondering about in the middle of nights they can’t sleep. I had just finished a short story set in India-Burma during World War II and was having trouble shutting down the production plant.

Photos of good stuff tomorrow. June 4 and we still have ice on the big lake.

Over.

02 Jun

June 1 Ice on Lake Superior.

Sort of a memorable time. June first we made a newspaper run and took some photos of the ice in Keweenaw Bay, then out to a secret brook trout pond for some swamp and skeet photos. .8 inch of rain since yesterday. Hard at work on a short story. Photos follow. Enjoy. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally, Spring!

Finally, Spring!

30 May

Looking Back at Game Warden Work

Retired CO Bob Schnieder came up with an album of photos from his long career. Some great stuff.[This damn Word System sucks.  top photo is of political effigies; Photos 2: Sgt. Dave  Palo and Bob Schnieder. Hunter killed a bear, claiming self-defense; the COs did a  necropsy, found that the bullet entered the butt and exited the chest.  Not exactly confirming the hunter’s “claim.” Ticket issued, bear confiscated. Photo 3: Some of Da Boys. Second from Left, the late Ralph Bennett retired as Sergeant, was a long-time DNR pilot and pioneered the use of aircraft in detecting night hunters. Last in line is Charlie Turk, all 6-6 or 6-7 of him, from Lake County, where locals called him King Kong. Photo 4: Now COs drive 4WD trucks equipped for the backroads and woods, but once upon a time they drove sedans, that were not exactly conducive to off-road or backroad  travel. Photo 5 and 6: Bob with a guy’s pet “cougar” which was wonderful when young, but at the size shown, like to crawl up on the fridge and attack anyone who approached. Owner asked DNR to  take care of the problem. The young animal was given to a zoo. Photo 7: Back in the day, officers spent a lot of time knocking out beaver dams, to release trapped trout and to keep water moving over spawning gravel. Often they used dynamite to start the day’s business, but then you sometimes had to finish the job manually. Photo 8: Sometime you overshot your vehicle’s limits. Photo 9: A second amendment photo, “Thank you for your service.” Game wardens used to see this  gesture quite frequently.

effigies; gove dirs of dnr and dept ag

Second Amendment Memories: Governor, and Directors of DNR and Dept Ag hung in Effigy.

game warden autopsy bear. Dave palo and Bob Schnider. slef defensde claim. Entry in rump.

(L-R)  COs Bpb Schneider, Ralph Bennett, Wes LaFayette, Gary Sims, Charie Turk

(L-R) COs Bpb Schneider, Ralph Bennett, Wes LaFayette, Gary Sims, Charie Turk

game warden sedan game warden, all in the job game warden and cat game warden, clearing beaves game warden, slight miscalculation on that road game wardenanother day on the job

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